The Trump administration released an FBI document containing allegations about the sexual misconduct of Martin Luther King as part of its declassification of information relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The 1968 document alleges financial improprieties by King’s civil rights organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, attempts to tie King to communist organizations and details a series of claims about King’s multiple alleged affairs.
It is not clear if any of the information in the dossier was verified. It makes no mention of JFK, and the FBI has not disclosed why it was held as part of a cache of documents relating to the Kennedy assassination.
Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s antipathy to King is well documented, and he went to extreme lengths, inlcuding authorising breaking into and bugging King’s home and offices, to destroy his reputation. The zeal of the FBI’s campaign against King has been outlined in tens of thousands of declassified FBI memos from the 1960s, and Congressional hearings on the FBI’s harrassment of King in the 1970s.
The declassified file is not the first time FBI information about King’s infidelity has been made public. The wiretaps that recorded information about King’s affairs – which the FBI tried to use against King — first emerged via congressional hearings in the 1970s.
Trump has ordered the National Archive to release all documents relating to the assassination, with the FBI file one of 646 documents from the Kennedy investigation released Friday.
The 20 page file profiles King when he was engaged in his historic campaign for civil rights, and is dated three weeks before his April 4 1968 assassination.
“The course King chooses to follow at this critical time could have momentous impact on the future of race relations in the United States,” the document’s introduction reads. “And for that reason this paper has been prepared to give some insight into the nature of the man himself as well as the nature of his views, goals, objectives, tactics and the reasons therefor.”
A section of the document entitled “King’s Personal Conduct” contains a series of claims about King’s extramarital affairs, including a relationship with folk singer Joan Baez.
The document describes the alleged sex acts King engaged in as “unnatural” and “abnormal,” and details an orgy that took place during workshops King held in Miami, Florida, in February 1968 with funds from the Ford Foundation to train black ministers in leadership.
“Several Negro and white prostitutes were brought in from the Miami area. An all night-sex orgy was held with these prostitutes and some of the delegates in attendance.”
“One room had a large table in it which was filled with whiskey. The two Negro prostitutes were paid $50.00 to put on a sex show for the entertainment of the guests. A variety of sex acts deviating from the normal were observed.”
It goes on to label the African-American civil rights organization King led as a “tax dodge” and describes the alleged communist ties of King’s associates.
The document was authored while Hoover was director of the FBI. Then Attorney Geberal Robert F. Kennedy had authorized phone tapping surveillance of King as part of the FBI’s controversial domestic intelligence program.
Clayborne Carson, the director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute and a Stanford University history professor, said the claims in the document were part of a smear campaign in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday night.
“When we look closely at this, what we see is that there is a person who is trying his best to damage Martin Luther King’s reputation,” Carson said, referring to Hoover.
The document mentions a letter sent to King in 1964 that urged him to commit suicide. A Senate committee later confirmed that the letter, alongside recorded evidence of King’s extramarital affairs, had been sent to King by the FBI.
Thousands of documents relating to the Kennedy assassination have been released by the Trump administration in recent weeks, but some were withheld at the request of U.S. intelligence agencies. The withheld documents have been placed under a six month review.
This story was updated on 4 November to include information about the FBI’s surveillance of King in the 1960s, and former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s antipathy to King.
This story was first published on Newsweek